231. One Thing

“You’ve got to tell me one thing.”
“No, I don’t.”
His quickness caught her short:
What did he think,
To answer so?

Pencil in his hand,
Bent at the bills,
Thomas was sullen. He’d
Decided: keep the reins
Tight, with his wife. Make her
Act like she had sense.
She hadn’t seen that woman–
Though he couldn’t be too sure.
Not with her.

“You’ve been to town,” she said,
Her voice on edge. “Tell me–
Is her husband home?”
Tom sighed loudly. Took
His time, erased a line.
Well, I’ll tell her, he decided:
What’s the harm.
“He’s been out of town,
A couple days. Expected back
On Sunday night”–
The churching would be over.
She tried: “So he doesn’t–
Know?”–the word slipped, high.
“Guess not.
That’s between them two,
Don’t you agree?”

Questions that aren’t
Questions, Riah thought.
Answers that aren’t answers.
She’ll get her just deserts,
That’s what they’re thinking.
Should I stay home–
Let it all blow by?
Or her church, on Sunday–
Make some speech?
He’ll kill her.
And he’s coming.
She’ll get her just deserts.
I don’t know
Where her house is.
He might kill her,
Where’s the house at,
Who would know?

“Mama!” James burst in,
Hair blown on end.
Wind sucked the door shut–
“Starting up again”–the sand
Slid, hissing, from his
Shoulders, down the wrinkles
In his denim, to
The floor. “How come you
Staring at me?” he asked Riah.
No reply.
James shook himself,
His shoes a heap of dust.
“No way to keep it out.
The storm is up.
Water from the windmill’s low,
So I can’t wash?”
He eyed her, hopeful.

“Damn it!” Thomas
Shouted at his numbers–
Could she not see how
Hard this juggling was?–
Why, she could never do it!
And she’d better not
Complain, not if he
Cursed her very
Face….He’d every
Right to….

Riah held her peace.

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